Judge stops DME eminent-domain hearing: Rapid City SD Journal, 7/10/07

By Dan Daly

Late Monday afternoon, 6th Circuit Judge James Anderson ordered the South Dakota Transportation Commission to stop its planned eminent-domain hearing on Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) Railroad's expansion project.

The hearing was scheduled to begin this morning at Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre. It was to last three days. An administrative law judge would take testimony and forward the findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Transportation Commission.

The commission has been asked to grant DM&E the right of eminent domain to extend its east-west line into Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

The railroad must cross a number of West River ranches and other land owned by people who don't want to sell. Therefore, DM&E needs eminent domain, the right to condemn and acquire land, to complete its line. Eminent domain is reserved for companies that can show the project's public good outweighs the property rights of individual landowners.

However, former Gov. Bill Janklow, serving as the attorney for several West River landowners, filed an affidavit in 6th Circuit Court arguing that the Transportation Commission's procedure for hearing eminent domain cases did not follow state law.

On Monday, Judge Anderson agreed to bar today's hearing. He also ordered the Transportation Commission and the South Dakota Department of Transportation to appear for a Tuesday, July 24, court hearing to show cause why it should be allowed to proceed with its eminent-domain case.

Rapid City SD Journal: http://www.rapidcityjournal.com